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    Entries in Baku Grand Prix 2014 (8)

    Tuesday
    Oct142014

    Baku Grand Prix, Round 11: Caruana & Gelfand Tie For First

    With two leaders and four players just half a point behind one could have expected last round fireworks at the Baku Grand Prix. As it turned out, however, all of the games that were relevant to the fight for first were drawn shortly after move 30, and so Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand tied for first in the opening event of the new Grand Prix series. Only one game finished with a winner, and that was Alexander Grischuk's victory over Leinier Dominguez.

    Final Standings:

    • 1-2. Caruana, Gelfand 6.5 (out of 11)
    • 3-7. Karjakin, Grischuk, Svidler, Tomashevsky, Nakamura 6
    • 8. Radjabov 5.5
    • 9-10. Mamedyarov, Kasimdzhanov 5
    • 11. Andreikin 4.5
    • 12. Dominguez 3

    Monday
    Oct132014

    Baku Grand Prix, Round 10: Resilience

    Until their simultaneous failure last round, either Fabiano Caruana or Boris Gelfand - or both - led the Baku Grand Prix, and I think that with the exception of round 3, no one else shared that lead with them. Coming into round 10 there was a six-way tie for first, and with Caruana in particular having lost two of his last three games it looked as if they had been swallowed up by the field.

    Not so! Caruana and Gelfand both won in round 10, and while there were two other decisive results all of the players who entered the round tied with them finished it trailing them once more. Leinier Dominguez had White against Caruana, but played unsuccessfully in the English and soon found himself suffering in a position where Black dominated the dark squares while White suffered with a bad light-squared bishop. White was worse, but wasn't losing until he swapped rooks on move 26. He clearly wanted to open lines on the queenside for counterplay, but the end result was a vulnerable king. Caruana took speedy advantage, ensuring himself of at least a share of the lead while leaving Dominguez in the cellar.

    Gelfand took on one of the co-leaders, Teimour Radjabov, and won very smoothly - too smoothly, perhaps. Radjabov eschewed his old favorite King's Indian and went into an Open Catalan, which is a Gelfand specialty. They followed a Kramnik-Radjabov game from their 2011 Candidates match, and although Radjabov produced the novelty on move 14 Gelfand was quickly better. Radjabov was clearly worse by move 19, and a further error on move 24 resulted in a 28 move win by the 2012 "vice-champion".

    Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler entered the round tied for first, and both may have had their moments of optimism. For Karjakin, he was on the white side of a Ruy line that had scored 8.5/9; for Svidler - who of course improved on the earlier games - he obtained a dangerous kingside attack with the help of a piece sacrifice. Luckily for Karjakin, Svidler either missed something or underestimated his chances, and took a perpetual in a clearly better position.

    Hikaru Nakamura was another leader who could only draw, not managing much on the white side of an Exchange Slav.

    Evgeny Tomashevsky remained within half a point of the lead, making it a four-way tie behind Caruana and Gelfand, by defeating Dmitry Andreikin. The game was decided in what I assume was mutual time pressure, wherein Andreikin made more, and more severe, errors than his opponent. By the time they made the time control Tomashevsky was up three pawns for nothing, so Andreikin gave up on his 41st turn.

    Finally, the game between Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Alexander Grischuk was won by the latter when the former FIDE champ underestimated Black's kingside play.

    The tournament site is here, and the games, with my comments, are here. Finally, these are Tuesday's final round pairings:

    • Mamedyarov (4.5) - Kasimdzhanov (4.5)
    • Radjabov (5) - Nakamura (5.5)
    • Svidler (5.5) - Gelfand (6)
    • Andreikin (4) - Karjakin (5.5)
    • Caruana (6) - Tomashevsky (5.5)
    • Grischuk (5) - Dominguez (3)

    Monday
    Oct132014

    Baku Grand Prix, Round 9: The Leaders Lose; Long Live the Leaders

    What's the best way to avoid stringing losses together? Don't lose the first game! Fabiano Caruana's reign of terror has come to at least a temporary end in the wake of his second loss in three games, this time to Alexander Grischuk, with White. Caruana was up a pawn in a position that was very difficult to keep controlled, and in time trouble allowed Grischuk to strike a crushing tactical blow.

    Life wasn't good for Boris Gelfand, either, and he lost as well, to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Caruana and Gelfand still lead the Baku Grand Prix, but they have company - lots of company. Hikaru Nakamura won very quickly against Rustam Kasimdzhanov when the latter blundered with 22...Rxe4 (22...Ne6 was alright), and thereby joined the tie for first. The other players caught up with draws, and so after nine rounds Caruana, Nakamura, Sergey Karjakin, Gelfand, Teimur Radjabov and Peter Svidler all have five points, and they're just half a point ahead of Kasimdzhanov and Evgeny Tomashevsky.

    Saturday
    Oct112014

    Baku Grand Prix: The Streak Ends!

    It had to end sooner or later, but it was quite the surprise to see Fabiano Caruana's insane streak of successes come to an end against Dmitry Andreikin in round 7. Andreikin is the second-lowest rated player in the field, was in clear last place with a -3 score, and is renowned for his poor opening play. If anyone was tailored-made for Caruana in the Baku Grand Prix tournament, it was Andreikin. So what happened? Caruana played the Scandinavian - an opening that puts relatively little pressure on White to be specially prepared - but more importantly didn't play very well, made a few mistakes, and lost.

    More significantly, it allowed Boris Gelfand to catch him, and as Gelfand was pressing hard against Rustam Kasimdzhanov Caruana was even a little fortunate to end the round tied for first. They both finished the day with 4.5/7, half a point ahead of Kasimdzhanov, Teimour Radjabov, and Sergey Karjakin. The latter was the day's other winner, defeating Hikaru Nakamura with the black pieces. Nakamura played a line of the Veresov with a bad reputation (I'll refrain from joking "but I repeat myself"), and was already worse after four moves. Karjakin could have won quickly, but despite not playing in the best possible way he eventually brought home the full point.

    Round 8 was less eventful. Caruana drew comfortably with Black against Kasimdzhanov, while Gelfand had a good position against Nakamura that slipped away. Sergey Karjakin could have caught the leaders by beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and should have done so. In time trouble, however, he missed his best opportunity and was still significantly better when the game was drawn. The day's only winner was Peter Svidler, who ground down Leinier Dominguez and thereby joined the group half a point behind the leaders.

    Saturday is a rest day, and Sunday's round 9 pairings are as follows:

    • Nakamura (4) - Kasimdzhanov (4.5)
    • Mamedyarov (3) - Gelfand (5)
    • Radjabov (4.5) - Karjakin (4.5)
    • Svidler (4.5) - Tomashevsky (4)
    • Andreikin (3) - Dominguez (3)
    • Caruana (5) - Grischuk (3)

    Wednesday
    Oct082014

    Baku Grand Prix, Round 6: Caruana Wins, Leads

    Fabiano Caruana wins a game and leads the tournament. Where have we heard that line before? A few more months of this and people will start offering retrospectives on the Magnus Carlsen era. Today it was Peter Svidler who was tossed into the wood chipper, though the game wasn't as clean as one might have liked. Caruana came out of the opening, a 3.f3 Anti-Gruenfeld, with a significant advantage, but 18.e5 was a mistake. (A very natural move, but a mistake nevertheless; 18.Nge2 was probably best.) The struggle flared up anew until Svidler's 27...Rh8?; the computer suggests (the very risky-looking) 27...Bxe4 28.Nxe4 f5 instead. For rating watchers, Caruana is now over 2851 and a win or two away from beating Garry Kasparov's career best (live) Elo rating. Carlsen himself is just 12 points away, though the latter's all-time mark will be safe at least through the end of this tournament.

    Boris Gelfand could have kept pace with a win over Sergey Karjakin, but while the game was a success - an easy draw with Black in a Najdorf where he even enjoyed some advantage - he is out of first place for the first time in the tournament.

    Rustam Kasimdzhanov won pretty easily against Dmitry Andreikin, who once again appeared not to "have any openings". Kasimdzhanov had a large advantage after the opening and rolled to victory.

    Alexander Grischuk's woes in this tournament continued with a strange loss to Teimour Radjabov. He came out of the opening with a slight edge with White into a middlegame with a large margin of safety. This margin disappeared with the combination of 19.b4 and 25.f4 (the latter move in particular was an error), creating targets for Radjabov on both sides of the board. 29.Qxe8 was the decisive error, after which Radjabov was able to take aim at the weaknesses and stroll to success.

    Leinier Dominguez had some advantage against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but was unable to bring home the full point.

    Likewise, Evgeny Tomashevsky had an edge (though generally not a very big one) against Hikaru Nakamura throughout their game, which was drawn as well.

    Round 7 Pairings:

    • Gelfand (4) - Kasimdzhanov (3.5)
    • Nakamura (3.5) - Karjakin (3)
    • Mamedyarov (2) - Tomashevsky (3)
    • Radjabov (3.5) - Dominguez (2.5)
    • Svidler (3) - Grischuk (2)
    • Andreikin (1.5) - Caruana (4.5)

    Tuesday
    Oct072014

    Baku Grand Prix, Caruana and Gelfand Lead After Five Rounds

    The last two rounds of the Baku Grand Prix have been a bit slow, at least when it comes to wins and losses. In today's round 5 action all the games were drawn, and only in the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Leinier Dominguez did anyone have serious winning chances. (Nakamura was pressing there and had a winning advantage at one point.)

    In round 4, before the first rest day, there were more opportunities for a decisive result, but only in the game between Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov did someone manage to convert the advantage. Caruana was the winner (I've annotated the game for you here), and in the process he caught up with Boris Gelfand in first place. After five rounds they lead with 3.5 points apiece, good enough for a half point lead over Nakamura and Peter Svidler and a point plus over the next four players in the table.

    The round 6 pairings are:

    • Kasimdzhanov (2.5) -Andreikin (1.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Svidler (3)
    • Grischuk (2) - Radjabov (2)
    • Dominguez (2) - Mamedyarov (1.5)
    • Tomashevsky (2.5) - Nakamura (3)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Gelfand (3.5)

    Saturday
    Oct042014

    Baku 2014: Gelfand Leads With 2.5/3

    Boris Gelfand is the oldest player in the field by a pretty significant margin - he's 46, and no one else is even in their 40s - but he nevertheless continues to play at the very highest level. After bludgeoning Dmitry Andreikin in round 1 he has continued well with a fascinating draw with Fabiano Caruana in round 2 on the black side of a Najdorf followed by a win over Alexander Grischuk in round 3. This puts him in clear first in Baku with 2.5/3, half a point ahead of Caruana, Peter Svidler and Hikaru Nakamura.

    Both of Gelfand's last two games, and in fact many games in this event, have been marred by time trouble. Of course the clock is part of the game, but it seems to be especially challenging for the players in this event as they are not using an increment (at least until move 60), which is extremely rare nowadays. The harshest finale of all was the end of the Gelfand-Grischuk game, where Gelfand let the win slip in time trouble only to see Grischuk lose on time making the last move of the control. (See the first video on this page, and go to approximately the 5:58 or 5:59 mark to see the final moments.)

    Other victories so far: in round 2 Svidler defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (when the latter blundered in time pressure) and Nakamura beat Andreikin, while in round 3 there was Gelfand's win and Sergey Karjakin's victory over Leinier Dominguez, when the latter collapsed in time trouble from what was an equal and even somewhat drawish position.

    There were a number of other games where one side really should have won, but - often in time pressure - let the moment slip. To return to the remarks above, the (now) unusual time controls are probably at least in fair part responsible for this. (More precisely, the players' lack of comfort with these controls.) Now, one might object that, first, the total amount of time under either this control or one with less time but with increments would be roughly the same; second, the players would have been in time trouble by the point in the game where they blundered either way. (In fact, if they had used the same amount of time up to that point, maybe even more serious time control.) But having played with both time controls with some regularity I can report that the feel in each case, when one is short of time, is quite different. Knowing that you'll always have a fresh 30 seconds waiting for you after your move is a relief, and gives you some extra comfort during the move you're making. You can focus your full attention on the move at hand when there's an increment; when there isn't one must also devote energy to the problem of apportioning one's time - a big distraction in time trouble, when there aren't enough mental resources for multitasking.

    Round 4 is tomorrow, and then Monday will be the first rest day. Tomorrow's pairings are Kasimdzhanov-Svidler, Andreikin-Radjabov, Caruana-Mamedyarov, Grischuk-Nakamura, Dominguez-Gelfand and Tomashevsky-Karjakin.

    Thursday
    Oct022014

    Baku Begins: Caruana (Of Course), Gelfand Win

    The inaugural tournament of the 2014-2015 Grand Prix series started today in Baku, with the following results:

    • Gelfand - Andreikin 1-0
    • Nakamura - Svidler 1/2-1/2
    • Mamedyarov - Radjabov 1/2-1/2
    • Dominguez - Kasimdzhanov 1/2-1/2
    • Tomashevsky - Grischuk 1/2-1/2
    • Karjakin - Caruana 0-1

    The first game was rather strange, or can be seen as a confirmation of something rather strange. In interviews after the 2013 World Cup and the 2014 Candidates, Andreikin described himself as "having no openings". That's a bizarre admission (and an even stranger state of affairs) for a top GM to make, but it does seem to be the truth. Today he went into a line known to be dangerous for Black, and made a new move that made his position even worse. I don't know if Gelfand had specifically prepared for Andreikin's new move, but either way he slaughtered him in just 23 moves.

    Nakamura-Svidler was a short draw - all the draws today were short, barely making it over the 30 move minimum - but it was not the sort of phony non-effort that used to be called a "grandmaster draw". In fact Svidler was doing very well, but made the wrong choice on move 27 and let Nakamura escape with a draw.

    Mamedyarov-Radjabov, however, was a grandmaster draw. They are countrymen and friends playing in their native land, so this isn't surprising. Their tournament will begin tomorrow.

    Dominguez-Kasimdzhanov was short and bizarre. Kasimdzhanov was much better in the early middlegame, but somehow lost the threat and was worse. On move 25 he made an outright blunder, but Dominguez didn't punish it. Even so, Dominguez was now much better, but his final move - move 30 - threw away the advantage and they agreed to a draw with plenty of life still in it.

    Tomashevsky-Grischuk was a normal draw. Not a grandmaster draw or a see-saw battle with blunders, but a typically modern game. White followed an opening line that had seen success in the past, Black found a good new move that neutralized White's plan, and soon they shook hands and called it a day.

    Finally, Caruana picked up where he left off, results-wise, by winning with Black against Karjakin. This was not, however, a kind of repeat of his supreme mastery at the Sinquefield Cup. Karjakin played very well through much of the game and at one point his advantage was beginning to get serious. Near the time control, however, Karjakin started losing the thread and never recovered. From what I understand, however, this was in part due to some sort of technological quirk. Karjakin was relaxing backstage while it was Caruana's move, and remained for 15 minutes. Apparently Caruana had moved, but the monitor had not updated, and so Karjakin simply lost a bunch of time on his clock. If the loss was in part due to wholly unnecessary time trouble, that's a pity.

    The games, with my comments, are here. I definitely won't be doing this for most of the tournament, but I had a little time today and thought it would be nice to get others interested in this super-event as well. (Maybe I should ask for volunteers for at least some of the remaining rounds?)